Long-range electrothermal fluid motion in microfluidic systems

Yi Lu, Qinlong Ren, Tingting Liu, Siu Ling Leung, Vincent Gau, Joseph C. Liao, Cho Lik Chan, Pak Kin Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


AC electrothermal flow (ACEF) is the fluid motion created as a result of Joule heating induced temperature gradients. ACEF is capable of performing major microfluidic operations, such as pumping, mixing, concentration, separation and assay enhancement, and is effective in biological samples with a wide range of electrical conductivity. Here, we report long-range fluid motion induced by ACEF, which creates centimeter-scale vortices. The long-range fluid motion displays a strong voltage dependence and is suppressed in microchannels with a characteristic length below ∼300 μm. An extended computational model of ACEF, which considers the effects of the density gradient and temperature-dependent parameters, is developed and compared experimentally by particle image velocimetry. The model captures the essence of ACEF in a wide range of channel dimensions and operating conditions. The combined experimental and computational study reveals the essential roles of buoyancy, temperature rise, and associated changes in material properties in the formation of the long-range fluid motion. Our results provide critical information for the design and modeling of ACEF based microfluidic systems toward various bioanalytical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-349
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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